Chandra Valley
Chandra Valley
While descending Rohtang La, I was thinking which is better - the journey or the destination. When you travel to a place, a significant portion of your time is consumed in the journey itself. True, we search for beautiful viewpoints and sceneries or places of historical importance but I think that the journey is where we get more experiences and destination is what we remember more. This theory derives from the description of two selves as presented in Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. More about those two selfs in the sixth part of this series of travel memoirs on Spiti valley. In the journey, we see all things changing - the river, the roads, vehicles, the landscape and then we can correlate all those things with the life that we live. The equilibrium with the surroundings never sets on while traveling, but at a destination, the ambiance, and your thoughts are in a dynamic equilibrium. Not to take away the credit from a person who sees a landscape and can think something creative on that, while traveling, the mind wanders on too many things induced by the changing terrain.

Henceforth our journey was in a valley where Chandra river, an upper tributary of Chenab river, flowed although Chandra river and we were moving in opposite directions. Till Kunzum Pass, we traveled in Chandra Valley. On a cloudy day, the view from Chandra Valley while looking towards Kunzum Pass was breathtaking. As described in previous part the coming and going of clouds and getting glimpses of sunlight in between was enthralling. Not to frighten someone, but such a weather resembles what was shown as Mordor's weather if you are a fan of 'Lord of the Rings' series. Black clouds hovering over high mountains. There was some construction activity going on that road and because of that many bulldozers and earthmoving machinery was present there. We had to stop many times before that array of heavy equipment could make way for vehicles to move on. When enquired we got to know that they were laying optical fiber cables (OFC) to bring connectivity to one of the remotest regions of the India.

The conditions of roads till Kunzum Pass deserves a mention. While the initial stretch of the road was good, roughly till Chhatru, road after that was very bad. Chhatru is a small village which is situated at almost equal distance from Rohtang La and Batal. Like Chhatru, we came across many such villages in Spiti Valley - small villages housing very small population where life seemed to be almost at a standstill. Saying that would be little preposterous because I said this when I compared this with the life that I am used to living. When seen from the other side we could be seen running day and night without even knowing why are we doing that. After Chhatru, the condition of roads deteriorated so much that we could not see any road for long stretches. There were pebbles all around and few of them were arranged in a less disorderly way which was to be assumed the road. Add to that water streams emanating from a sidehill.

I do not know how to describe Batal. I could not any see any village houses there. There was one small dhaba providing food and stay and there was one government guest house. Apart from that nothing else was there, save few construction workers celebrating a hard day of work with music system powered by a bulldozer. The small dhaba was run by an elderly couple who used to run that dhaba in summers. In winters, they used to move to Manali because Batal would be covered by few feet of snow. They also saved lives of many people who got stuck in heavy snowfall. For this humanitarian work, there were newspaper reports on them and they have posted those reports on the walls inside the dhaba. Called fondly as Chacha and Chachi, they were jolly in nature. Chacha used to respond 'hazaar' (a thousand) when enquired about the price of any item. We stayed in that dhaba that night, but it was too cold and difficult to sleep. There was a plan to camp near Chandratal and we thought that it was a good decision, in the end, not to go for that. Strong winds blowing in a cold weather would have frozen us.

There are two ways to reach Kaza, the center of Spiti valley. One was from Manali via Rohtang La which we had chosen. The other was from Shimla. We met a contractor in Batal and out of curiosity we asked him out of the two roads to reach Kaza, which one was better. He said definitely one from Shimla because that road is better kept than the one we were traveling. The terrain that we saw from our journey Chhatru onwards was getting familiar as we moved on. There were high mountains on both sides of the valley with a steep slope. You could not see a tree or a bird flying casually. Even villages were not that frequently sighted. This was a reason why Spiti valley is called a cold desert.
Chhatru Village en route to Batal
Chhatru Village en route to Batal
Condition of the Road to Kaza
Condition of Road to Kaza


मैं नश्वरता का वरदान लिए आता हूँ
तुम्हारे साथ के इन पलों के लिए
जो कहे न जा सकें उन क्षणों के सान्निध्य के लिए
हर एक जीवन में मैं एक नया जन्म लेता हूँ
तुम अमरत्व का अभिशाप लिए
कितनी आपदायें, कितने परिवर्तन देख चुकी
कितनी दुनिया के कितने दृश्यों को देख चुकी
स्वीकार चुकी, नकार चुकी
स्मृतियों के अनंत भार को कब तक ढोती रहोगी, स्पीति?

इस मरुस्थल के सन्नाटे की लयबद्धता को
घाटी जैसी बाँसुरी में संगीत करती, दिशा भूल चुकी हवाओं को
किसी सुदूर गाँव से आती हुई ढोल की आवाज को
कितनी धुनों को अपनी लहरों में समाहित कर
भविष्य के लिए बचा लिया है,
कितने सूर्योदयों की लाली के
अस्ताचल सूर्य में लौटते हुए कितने चरवाहों के
वह रात्रि के अक्ष्क्षुण आकाश के कितने तारों के
दृश्य तुम्हें अनायास ही याद हो चुके हैं
पर समय तो सब विस्मृत कर देता है
क्या तुम काल को पराजित कर सकोगी, स्पीति?


Way to Rohtang La
Way to Rohtang La

Whenever I remember the mighty Himalayas, many pictures dance in front of my eyes, like they do in front of Sherlock Holmes when he makes mind castles. Pictures which were part of memories, but slowly became part of my life so much so that whenever there is any discussion of travel, a story or two of Himalayas come inadvertently. I cannot help it. Those pictures tell us the story of the men meeting the mountain. Those pictures show how mighty turbulent rivers get transformed from a small stream of water. Those pictures show us the resolve of tall mountains which are thousands of years old but still young when the timeline of mountain formation is considered. Those pictures which we were able to bring with us also remind us that we have also left too many things there. And we might have to make many more trips to try and bring them back. Those pictures in which you will not find any sign of life but you will realize at once that it was full of life in its own way. I am not talking about the pictures that I have taken with a camera but ones that have been deeply entrenched in my memory. 

My trip to Spiti valley begun from Manali, a popular hill station which was not that popular few decades ago. Then militancy in Kashmir led to a major drop in the number of tourists in Kashmir Valley. Once a sleepy little village, Manali transformed into a major tourists attraction. I have to admit that this transformation has taken a toll on the beauty and tranquility of Manali. The streets of the Manali were so crowded that it never looked like that we are in a Himalayan town located far from the hustle of a big town in Gangetic plains few hundred kilometers away. Well, Manali is also like a base camp. Trips to Spiti Valley, Leh, and many other popular tourist destinations start from here. Mall Road in Manali was small but still very crowded. We hired a taxi in Manali for Spiti Valley. We were warned in advance of the dangerous roads and low temperatures. Also, being inexperienced we did not decide in favor of a bike trip to Spiti valley. And thus began our trip to Spiti Valley.

I have wondered many times that why do we travel. Those who travel frequently, why do they do that? One reason can be that getting away from daily routine is always refreshing. Do the same thing again and again, and one day we think why are we repeating it so many times. Then we try to escape to where we can forget what we have been doing. The second reason can be the curiosity and an eagerness to talk to new people, to explore previously unexplored areas (unexplored not necessarily by the humankind but by the person himself/herself) and to know more about oneself. This purpose of traveling closely resembles the purpose of reading books - to know more. In its purest form, the purpose of knowledge should be to become enlightened, to be in a state of bliss and to be awakened. The purpose of knowledge should not be to win debates, to show off or to dominate the discussions.

The distance between Manali and Rohtang Pass is about 45km. Rohtang Pass was very crowded that day and we got to know from the driver that during the season (mostly summers), it is like that only. There were many small waterfalls on the way to Manali and we could see vehicles parked near them. I was thinking that the tour plans sold by the tour operators for these waterfalls are making tourists myopic. They do not know what lies beyond Rohtang Pass and with a tendency to settle down for these tour packages they will never know. At Rohtang Pass, we saw tourists in full snowfall gear. They must have been convinced that it will be extreme cold at the Rohtang pass. In the language of the Ladakh region, Rohtang means the pile of corpses which is a reference to frequent deaths caused by the unpredictable weather at the pass. Our driver told us that frequent landslides happen on the road to the pass. Once he was stuck there for a week. He used to climb the hills to go for food and then come back again in the vehicle.

At Rohtang Pass, it was all cloudy. There were beautiful colorful flags with which we encountered at almost any place of significance during our journey to Spiti Valley. This is a Buddhist tradition. Legend has it that these flags were used in battles with the prayers of Gautama Buddha written over it. From Rohtang Pass, we could observe the changing views because of clouds coming and going. Normal process was like this - there would be a valley which would be dark and then slowly it would become silver in color. Then that valley would seem like a source of light for the area. While descending from the Rohtang Pass, we reached Gramphu where there is a diversion - one road goes to Leh and another goes to Spiti Valley. This time, we chose the one less traveled by - the road to Spiti Valley.

View from Rohtang La
View from Rohtang La
Prayer Flags at Rohtang Pass
Prayer Flags at Rohtang Pass


आचार्य रामचन्द्र शुक्ल के लिखे हुए ललित निबंधों का यह पहला संकलन है। बाद में चिन्तामणि का भाग 2 भी निकाला गया था जो आज शायद दुर्लभ पुस्तकों की श्रेणी में आ गया है। कहीं न कहीं इसके पीछे ललित निबंधों से सामान्य जनमानस की रूचि समाप्त सी हो जाना रहा है। मैं रामचन्द्र शुक्ल के ज़माने के बारे में प्रामाणिकता के साथ नहीं कह सकता लेकिन आज के समय में हिंदी ललित निबंध, समालोचना को समर्पित पत्रिकाओं में या फिर हिंदी समाचार पत्रों के साहित्यिक परिशिष्ट के किसी कोने में शोभायमान होते हैं। और जब इन सब कारणों के साथ शुक्ल जी के गहन मनोवैज्ञानिक निबंध पाठक का पूर्ण समर्पण माँगे तो ऐसे निबंध संकलनों के लिए पाठक मिलना मुश्किल हो जाता है। शायद इसीलिए चिन्तामणि-2 का मिल पाना आज थोड़ा मुश्किल हो गया है।

रामचन्द्र शुक्ल द्वारा रचित 'चिन्तामणि - 1'
चिन्तामणि - 1 में पुस्तक के शुरूआती भाग में शुक्ल जी ने गंभीर मनोवैज्ञानिक विषयों पर निबन्ध लिखे हैं जैसे उत्साह, श्रद्धा, भक्ति, करुणा, लज्जा, ग्लानि, लोभ, प्रीती, घृणा, ईर्ष्या, भय, क्रोध आदि। इन निबंधों में शुक्ल जी की सूक्ष्म दृष्टि पहचानी जा सकती है जो उन्होंने मनुष्यों के कार्यों का निरीक्षण करने में प्रयोग किया है। इन निबंधों में शुक्ल जी ने पहले भावों या मनोविकारों को परिभाषित किया है, फिर उनकी अनेक श्रेणियाँ बताई हैं और अंत में यह भी लिखा है कैसे कोई भाव अन्य भावों से अलग है। उदाहरण के लिए किसी को श्रद्धा और करुणा में भेद प्रत्यक्ष नजर न आये, ऐसा हो सकता है। लेकिन शुक्ल जी ने कहा है कि श्रद्धा की भावना में हम किसी के व्यापक महत्व को स्वीकार करते हैं, जबकि करुणा में हम किसी की स्थिति से सहानुभूति अनुभव करते हैं। श्रद्धा सामाजिक भावना है जबकि करुणा एक व्यक्तिगत भावना है। इसी प्रकार शुक्ल जी ने अन्य भावों की व्याख्या की है। अपनी बात पर बल देने के लिए उन्होंने जगह-जगह पर कविताओं और शास्त्रों को उद्धृत किया है ताकि इस बात की पुष्टि की जा सके सामने क्या देखने पर किस प्रकार के भाव मन में उत्पन्न होते हैं।

मनोवैज्ञानिक भावों की व्याख्या के बाद में शुक्ल जी ने ‘कविता क्या है’ इस विषय की गहराई में जाने की कोशिश की है और सचमुच इस लम्बे निबंध में उन्होंने कविता के अनेक आयामों की समीक्षा की है जैसे - सभ्यता, प्रसार, मर्म, व्यवहार, सौंदर्य, भाषा और चमत्कारवाद। इस निबंध में उन्होंने इस बात की चर्चा की है कि मनुष्य को कविता की जरुरत क्यों पड़ी। साथ ही साथ पश्चिम के विचारकों का उल्लेख करते हुए उन्होंने इस बात को भी जताने का प्रयास किया है कि सिर्फ नायिका के सौन्दर्य की तारीफ करने को या शब्दों में अनावश्यक चमत्कार लाने को कविता नहीं कहा जा सकता है। यहाँ एक बात और कहता चलूँ। संयोग से जब मैं इस पुस्तक को पढ़ रहा था, उसी समय मैं रॉबर्ट पिर्सिग की प्रसिद्ध रचना 'जेन एंड द आर्ट ऑफ़ मोटरसाइकिल मेंटेनेंस' भी पढ़ रहा था। जिस विषय को शुक्ल जी ने इतनी सूक्ष्मता से बयान किया था उसके के बारे में रॉबर्ट पिर्सिग का कहना था कि कला की गुणवत्ता को परिभाषित ही नहीं किया जा सकता, विश्लेषण करना तो बहुत दूर की बात है। दोनों की बातों को पढ़ने के बाद यह कहा जा सकता है कि कला किसी पूर्व निर्धारित ढर्रे पर नहीं चल सकती। किसी कृति के बन जाने के बाद उसका विश्लेषण किया जा सकता है लेकिन किन्हीं नियमों का पालन करते हुए कृति के बनने के बारे में निश्चित नहीं हुआ जा सकता।

पुस्तक के अन्य निबंधों में शुक्ल जी ने भारतेंदु हरिश्चन्द्र की कविताओं का विश्लेषण किया है। हिंदी जगत के साहित्यकारों के मन में भारतेंदु जी एक अलग ही स्थान रखते हैं जैसा कि हमने धर्मवीर भारती की पुस्तक 'ठेले पर हिमालय' में भी देखा था। एक अन्य निबंध में शुक्ल जी ने रामायण की धार्मिक पृष्ठभूमि की चर्चा की है कि किस प्रकार से तुलसी के राम उस समय के समाज के लिए सर्वथा उपयुक्त थे। एक अन्य निबंध में शुक्ल जी कहा है कि वृहद् रूप में साहित्य और विशेष रूप से काव्य को समाज के एक साधारण को प्रस्तुत करना होता है। एक वह रूप जिससे साहित्य को ग्रहण करने वाला व्यक्ति अपने साथ जोड़कर देख सके। इसके साथ ही उन्होंने साहित्य में घुस आये विभिन्न वादों की आलोचना की है। लॉरा रायडिंग और रॉबर्ट ग्रेव्स के ‘अ सर्वे ऑफ़ मॉडर्निस्ट पोएट्री’ का उल्लेख करते हुए उन्होंने कहा है कि विभिन्न वादों से भरे हुए साहित्य बहुत दिन चलते नहीं हैं और अंत में लोग ‘फिर साफ़ हवा में आना चाहते हैं।’ पुस्तक की भाषा संस्कृतनिष्ठ है जो कि शायद उस समय के हिंदी साहित्य का मानक था।


'India's Tryst with Destiny' is an economic policy book which supports more reforms and advocates a more active role for private players. Also available under the name, 'Why Growth Matters: How Economic Growth in India Reduced Poverty and the Lessons for Other Developing Countries', this book is written by Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya – two prominent Indian economists. Bhagwati is considered to have started the intellectual support for reforms started in the 1980s and more vigorously in the 1990s. Arvind Panagariya is current chairman of Niti Aayog of India. During these years of economic reform, India’s economy was opened up and 'License Raj' was removed from many sectors. This book is all about evaluating the effects of those reforms and replying to critics arguing against those reforms based on the social indicators. Also, through this book, authors advocate a significant role of private players in education, health, and industry. At few places in the book, authors have criticized Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze for having the view that growth has done relatively little for the upliftment of masses.

'India's Tryst with Destiny' by Arvind Panagariya and Jagdish Bhagwati
Bhagwati and Panagariya mention about the socialism under the Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Although much celebrated as a socialist, Nehru emphasized on production in many speeches and he thought that only more production can provide enough resources to eradicate poverty. Also, criticisms on the basis that Indian planners pursued growth as an end are refuted by the authors as they cite reports from First Five Year Plan drafted by the Planning Commission which gives due emphasis to education and health sector. According to authors, socialism under Indira Gandhi was of different hue and too many permits and licenses were introduced which pleased the ultra-left section of Indian politics, but in the end proved detrimental to the growth. With fewer resources available, the spending on public goods – with social implications – took a hit and India did not show much improvement in social indicators. Citing statistics, authors claim that after 1991, a much larger proportion of the population has been lifted above BPL.

In the first part of the book, authors have debunked many myths surrounding India’s growth story. Comparisons with Bangladesh and China were discussed. In the case of Bangladesh, authors say that West Bengal which has a shared history and geography outperforms Bangladesh. They argue that Bangladesh has better health indicators at the time of independence. In the tumultuous decades of the 1970s and 1980s, these indicators took a hit but present conditions hint towards the return to the post-independence condition. They argue along similar lines for comparisons with China and say that China had a head start of many years. Taking the example of one more myth propagated by few that due to reforms, India is now in the Gilded Age that was in the United States in the late nineteenth century. Authors refute such claims by saying that because of reforms many entrepreneurs with a clean image have risen like Narayana Murthy of InfoSys, Azim Premji of Wipro and Uday Kotak of Kotak Mahindra Bank, and have embraced CSR and PSR. They also say that in contrast to Gilded Age of the USA, the condition of laborers is much better in India.

In the second and third part of the book, authors talk about Track 1 and Track 2 reforms. By Track 1 reforms, they mean reforms in regulations and infrastructure which help in ease of doing business. These reforms include labor laws, land acquisition laws, infrastructure, higher education and agriculture. Authors argue that ease in regulation will help in increasing the firm size. Large and medium firms are known to provide better salaries and facilities as it has been proved in the case of China. Authors also want foreign universities to be allowed to open campuses in India. Even though few faculties might move to these universities from premium institutes like IITs and IIMs, in the end, it will benefit Indian students only. It may also help in the return of educated Indians employed in universities abroad.

Track 2 reforms are in the area of employment, adult education, food security, health care and elementary education. Here also authors argue for a more active role by the private sector as the decades of experience has proved governments to be ineffective in providing these necessities with the presence of massive corruption. In many areas authors, argue against targeted redistribution of in-kind benefits because as long as these benefits are available at the market price the beneficiary always has an option to sell these for a price. They argue more in favor of cash transfer.

This book was structured in a way that it first argues against the myths and then it builds the case for more reforms. Free from too many economic jargons and with technical terms explained wherever possible, this book does not need any prerequisite. To know the views contrary to the authors of this book, a book by Amartya Sen is recommended.